‘What’s the big deal with technical support emails?’, you might ask. Aren’t they simple? In theory, they are, and yet many customer support agents manage to make a substantial mess of them. They’re always too long, boring, or just downright confusing.
As someone in tech support, I’ve had my fair share of support conversations ranging from the terrible to occasionally hilarious. And while I’m sure everyone has, at some point or the other, quibbled over phrasing so that they don’t sound too apologetic or aggressive, it still doesn’t account for some of the mind-boggling ways in which some people mess up.
So here’s a curated list of points to remember when you’re composing that perfect tech support email:
Analyze the Problem From Multiple Angles
I know, I know, this is about as obvious as it gets. But you’d be surprised at the number of times customers call tech support and the guys at the other end just refuse to listen.
I’ve seen reps who just assume that customers know as much about their products/space as they do. And when they build on this assumption, all hell breaks loose. Another common mistake lies on the opposite end of the spectrum, where your agents might treat a customer like they know nothing. This attitude may come off as condescending and ultimately irritate your customers. There is a significant difference in the way you would deal with an old man who lacks an understanding of computers and a twenty year old who has been using one for years.
The easiest way to get it right is by reading over the complaint, over and over again. Three to four iterations later, you’ll get a clear picture of the situation. After understanding the problem, also ensure you are aware of how much your customer knows about it. Based on this, you will be able to give them the assistance they need. Try it and you’ll be able to see for yourself just how often your initial assumptions can end up being wrong.
Test a Solution Out Before Offering It
While writing a customer support email, you might be tempted to type out a somewhat ambiguous response. This could be an older solution or information garnered from a coworker. Don’t assume the solution is valid just because you tried it out three months ago or someone on your developer team explained it to you.
Do it yourself right now, see the result with your own eyes, and confirm that it’s working before you hit that send button. Even the slightest missteps can turn a satisfied customer into an irate one.
For example, asking your customer to restart their service or computer might work temporarily. But if the same issue crops up again in the future, they aren’t going to be very happy. Instead, attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the problem at hand before offering a solution which you have tested out.
Understand the Importance of Empathy
Every customer you speak to has a genuine problem. To them, the littlest of glitches could mean a critical issue that can cause bottlenecks. It’s never okay for you to take them lightly, even if the fix is already on the way. Customer service is often as much about listening and acknowledging that there is an issue as it is about solving the problem. The tone of your response carries a great deal of importance, so ensure you give it the due consideration it deserves. Also ensure that when you are replying to a customer, you provide answers to all their problems. This will reduce the number of replies which you may need to solve their issue.
So, put your two-year-old canned responses away while composing your reply. Understand what they’re going through and try to make your apologies as personal as possible. Make them a promise – that you are looking into the issue, and you’ll follow through until everything’s okay for them.
Once you have solved their issue, check back with them in a while. By contacting them again, you can show them you care about them and their satisfaction. It is also a good way to check if your solution is one that works. If you don’t have the time to contact them personally, you can send a satisfaction survey to gather feedback from them.
Grammar and Presentation Matter
It might be impossible for you to make sure that every tech support email is perfect before you shoot ’em out. However, you need to at least try, even if you have a dozen cued up. Make it a point to go through every reply at least once before sending it. After all, no matter how technically proficient you might be, the quality of your reply matters just as much as your solution. Another thing which you should always check for is whether you’ve added attachments or not. Having to send another email with the attachment can make you seem unprofessional.
If you don’t believe in yourself to spot all the errors, trust in a tool like MS Word or Grammarly to spot them for you. You can also consult one of your grammar-obsessed friends and get their feedback (and often corrections.)
When it comes to replying to customers, adding that personal touch can make a great deal of difference as well. Using their name in your emails is a very simple yet significant thing to start with. You can also mention a particular detail you know about them, or a fact about their order. If they’re ordering chocolate online, you can say you like that brand as well, and even suggest other products. Treating customers like actual people always shows benefits for both your company and your customer. They get a better interaction experience and you can gain loyalty.
Never Say No
There’s not a user in the world who, if asked what features they’d like to see added to their product, says that the product is absolutely perfect. But as much as you’d like to oblige all their ideas, you can’t put every request in your roadmap for your product. All you can do is understand the client’s problems to the best of your ability and suggest workarounds based on what you know.
Even if you cannot provide them with a particular feature, make sure you never say a hard “no” in your email. Check with your project manager if something’s being planned, and keep them in the loop. In the meantime, they’ll appreciate whatever you can do for them. There are always alternatives one can consider while trying to solve a customer’s problems. An example would be in the case of a customer having chosen a plan which is a tad too expensive. While you might not be able to offer them a refund due to company policy, you could try and reduce the strain on them. This could be in the form of asking them to pay in installments. There are always other solutions possible.
The way you word your replies to these requests also matters. Saying a blunt “no” is never a smart idea. Instead, offer up suggestions which may function as a solution to the customer’s issue. You can take a look at some sample email templates to understand how you can use these pointers and write that perfect support email. There are quite a few varieties which can be used depending on the type of issue at hand.
If, for example, you might be considering your customer’s request:
And if their request isn’t on your roadmap:
Nobody’s perfect. So go on, tell us what we’ve missed out! What might seem like an obvious tip to you might just be the missing piece of the puzzle somebody else needs to turn their tech support email game around, so share away!